McDowell warning on media ownership

 

Former tánaiste and Progressive Democrat leader Michael McDowell has criticised the Government for delaying the introduction of legislation to curb the concentration of media ownership.

Mr McDowell said there was a small number of “powerful people” influencing the media in Ireland, and this represented a “danger for democracy”.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s Marion Finucane Show, he said the Government had let plans to introduce restrictions on media ownership slide.

“Looking at it from the outside, there’s an awful lot of talking up what they [the Government] are about to do...and then, suddenly, we can’t do it.”

“If you want to run a newspaper, don’t run a radio station. I don’t see there is anything wrong with that.”

“In the context of newspapers, either you can be a trust like the Irish Times, or no group can have more than a 25 per cent interest in any newspaper.”

“Those are the kinds of things you could be doing if you were really concerned with keeping the organs of public expression free, and I think they are under threat.”

In a lengthy interview, Mr McDowell said he had spoken to a member of the Government at a recent social event who told him that the Dáil was not functioning effectively because of the fragmented nature of the opposition.

“There isn’t really an opposition, there’s a ragbag of people on the opposition benches…they are elected but for totally different reasons and they’re not cohesive,” he said.

“This isn’t really an effective challenge to the Government.”

The former attorney general and minister for justice also spoke of tenure as leader as the PDs and his relationship Mary Harney.

He said Ms Harney believed the party’s long-term future lay with a merger with Fine Gael, a view which had surprised him.

Asked if he had an interest in returning to politics, Mr McDowell said: “If I were going to that, now wouldn’t be the time to do it”.

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